Clash Prompts Dramatic Walkout In Harrisburg Legislative Committee
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — “Nonsense,” House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody of Oakmont exclaims on a tape provided by the House Democratic Caucus.
A raucous meeting of the House Rules Committee ended in a walkout of Democrats, led by Dermody after the Republican chair, Majority Leader Mike Turzai of McCandless, denied Democrats the chance to speak.
“This is an outrageous attempt to stifle, to stifle the people of Pennsylvania. You should ashamed,” Dermody says to Turzai.
The dispute began earlier when Turzai suggested that Democrats were offering amendments to rules changes to slow down the Republican agenda.
“The response was specifically, ‘We don’t want you to be able to do what you need to do’ — I’m paraphrasing,” Turzai says before Dermody interupts.
Dermody: “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You can’t be para — stop that, stop that. That’s outrageous. That wasn’t said, and these amendments were timely filed. Don’t make stuff up.”
“I’m not making stuff up, Frank,” Turzai retorts.
Turzai wants the House to return to an old procedural rule under former Speaker John Perzel that allows the majority party — now the Republicans — to table any amendments to a bill while still voting on the main bill.
Democrats say that disenfranchises them and independent Republicans with ideas of their own.
“This muzzles our ability to represent our people and our district and it even muzzles your own members,” says PA Rep. Joe Markosek of Monroeville. “I would suggest that the modern Tea Party would not be in agreement with what you are trying to do in silencing.”
The dispute got uglier when Turzai suggested that he would cut the number of Democrats on House committees.
“So the short answer to my question is that we’re being punished because we filed amendments, is that correct?”
“No, nobody . . .”
“That is exactly correct.”
“No, nobody is being punished,” Turzai insisted.
Turzai says Republicans just want to be able to enact their reform agenda without Democrats obstructing them and he suspects this was a set-up.
Dermody says Democrats just want the chance to improve on those reforms and resent rules changes that won’t let them do that.